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Saratoga County to switch health insurance providers

Officials expect to save at least $400K

Thursday, November 22, 2012
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— Saratoga County’s 1,200 employees will have a new health insurance provider in 2013, but the benefits will remain the same.

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to award a $24.3 million contract to Empire Blue Cross at its monthly meeting in Ballston Spa.

For many years, the county has had health insurance coverage provided by Blue Shield of Northeastern New York. County Administrator Spencer Hellwig said this week that the benefits county employees receive are part of an existing collective bargaining agreement with the county and will not change.

“We just changed providers,” he said.

The change in health insurance companies is expected to save the county at least $400,000 per year, according to a report from consultant Benetech of North Greenbush.

Brian O’Grady, vice president of commercial accounts for Blue Shield of Northeastern New York, attended the Board of Supervisors meeting to express his displeasure with the change. O’Grady said Blue Shield has provided the county with health insurance coverage for nearly 30 years. He criticized the recommendations made by the county’s health coverage consultants, as well as the supervisors’ process for arriving at the decision to change providers.

“The board made a bad decision,” he said during the public comment period of the meeting.

Until 2012, the county was fully covered by its health insurance provider, with the insurer providing all services and paying claims, Hellwig said. This year, the county went to an administrative services only approach, in which the county takes responsibility for paying the claims and the insurance company provides administration of the plan.

“There is some risk involved,” Hellwig said about this approach, but the county’s consultants said if the county carefully monitors the claims and controls this process, the county can obtain the savings.

This approach has allowed county officials to drop the county’s overall health insurance budget by as much as $1.7 million due to the savings, Hellwig said.

The county does carry a “stop loss” policy that protects it against large, unexpected claims associated with a significant settlement, he said.

Blue Shield of Northeastern New York Inc. will still provide the county with dental insurance in 2013. The Board of Supervisors approved a $719,688 contract with it for the coming year.

The total bill for health insurance and dental insurance is just over $25 million for the year.

 
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